Screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
Directed by Jonathan Church
The studio era, a Golden time for Hollywood’s finest performers and a haven of films which continue to stand the test of time, an era long soaked in nostalgia, for better or worse, and revered those in the biz. To imagine that even in the fifties, with the release of the now genre-defining Singin’ In The Rain, tribute was already setting the time in stone, with Gene Kelly’s now-iconic number under all those tonnes and tonnes of watery milk.
But can a stage adaptation capture the magic? Stage has its benefits yes, but filmmaking has the process, the snips and cuts, and trickery of the lens. But what Singin’ In The Rains’ musical adaptation has, above all else, is undiluted enthusiasm and dextrous talents. As Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont shift from the silent to the spoken era of filmmaking, just how on earth will they continue to make it? With the aid of a good pal and pianist, Cosmo, a little theatre magic, and a quick costume change or three, this could all work. But let’s face it, it’s pretty much stage perfection.
Brisk, shirking and bordering on the outskirts of arrogant – Sam Lips stays true to the character of Don Lockwood, achieving that initial smarm that only legends can carry off. Soon, the façade melts away, and the pride of a man who has lived his life under the delusion is work is spectacular comes to grips with what is possible and how to achieve this. Fast-paced, Lips floats for a majority of the show, almost on a separate plane from the rest of the theatre – a true showman, capturing a relic of old Hollywood and drawing its charisma into the contemporary age. No cast member doesn’t benefit from their time with Lips, and reversely, Lips takes every other character on board, never stealing their moments of taking more than they offer back.
And how could you thieve, when your leading ladies are the likes of Charlotte Gooch or Faye Tozer. And though different, they share an ability to steal that coveted spotlight from most, particularly Tozer’s semi-antagonist Lina Lamont, the fading starlet who finds difficulty in adjusting to Hollywood’s shift into the Talkies. With an accent to curdle milk and an attitude to sicken even the most spoiled of children, it’s an absolute stroke of brilliance that Tozer wins over the audience and still manages to achieve a fabulous solo while entirely in character. An utter testament to the dedication – to strip one already known vocal talent back to play a character who cannot sing – merit to both Tozer and Robert Scott’s musical direction.
In the realms of Jukebox musicals, where anything and everything happens at the drop of a hat – the unexpected is, well, expected. From brisk sudden musical changes to period dramas rippling into the mix, there’s a welcome change in Gooch’s natural charm as Kathy Seldon and effortless aptitude to carry a significant role. Nothing is forced, carried with composure until it is required to be lost, usually at the intricate and intense whim of Andrew Wright’s choreography. When joining with Lips and McLaren for Good Morning it feels as though things can’t get any better.
And yet, that’s precisely what the show does.
The perfect counterpart to these Hollywood heartthrobs and divas are the likes of Ross McLaren or Dale Rapley’s studio owner RF Simpson. Both bring grounded energy, comedy, and touching performance, but then McLaren has to go and inject enough energy into the piece that those thousand gallons of water are needed to quench the flames. Bouncing and ricocheting off of Simon Higlett’s set design – turning to Make ‘Em Laugh into as equal a showstopper as the titular number, going as far as to match the pacing of the great Donald O’Connor themselves.
Illustrious, jubilant, and with enough razzamatazz to fill the Festival Theatre – as Singin’ in the Rain achieves the unachievable and recaptures the magic of Tinseltown in a manner other shows and movies can only dream. Where shortcomings are expected by the gloomy, expectations are dashed and improved upon. Where archaic tropes ripple fear, a freshness is instead permeating through the thought-process and Jonathan Church’s direction of these stars. Rarely does a show achieve its dynamic with such a punch, perfecting intentions and raising smiles (and brollies) all across the space it inhabits. In fact, it isn’t pretty much stage perfection. It is stage perfection. And likely one of the best Musical Theatre experience you’ll catch this year.
Singin’ In The Rain runs at the Festival Theatre until April 30th.
Tickets for which can be obtained here.